From the time I let out my first cry, I’ve been a night owl.
So I’ve never caught the wriggly worm and don’t expect to win big in this lifetime.
My brain is fuzzy in the morning and that impairs my ability to think and speak clearly. Heck, I can barely string a coherent sentence if woken up before 9am!
It’s just the way my body’s circadian rhythm works and I cannot do anything to alter it, though I’ve tried.
The circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain, and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals.
It’s also known as your sleep/wake cycle. These rhythms influence your blood pressure, body temperature, hormone levels and heart rate, all of which play a role in your body’s readiness for exercise.
My energy level spikes as the day progresses (without any caffeine!), and by the time everyone is winding down, I’m functioning at my optimal level and being an annoyance to others.
Still, for a good part of my adult life, I’ve risen early for dance classes or to do supplementary training, or to teach a sunrise class. But, no more!
Starting this year, I’ve bade goodbye to all my early morning classes and have decided that to give my best, my workouts cannot begin earlier than 11am.
I do make a weekly exception when my buddy forces me on a hike at 7am. For the first 30 to 45 minutes of the trail, he does all the talking, while my eyes are glued to the ground I’m walking on. During our evening hikes, the roles are reversed.
Really, does it matter whether you prefer a morning sweat session or an evening workout?
Many fitness gurus advocate morning workouts, saying it has greater benefits such as revving up metabolism and speeding up weight loss, but there is no conclusive evidence to show that one is better than the other.
Some people find it easier to get their workouts out of the way before the day’s distractions set in. At that hour, gyms are less crowded and traffic is lighter.
A few studies suggest that morning exercisers tend to be consistent in their workouts, and will squeeze them in come rain or shine to stay on track with a fitness regime.
Apparently, getting your workout in the morning also makes it easier to incorporate a balanced breakfast into your schedule, setting you up for a day of healthy, guilt-free eating.
But, the time of the day can influence how you feel while exercising.
Different people will have different preferences and predispositions to how they respond to exercise intensity at different times of the day.
In the mornings, I can seldom push myself hard as my body stubbornly resists instructions from my sleep-deprived brain.
It also takes me longer to warm up, my flexibility is affected and my reflexes are not as quick. I feel sluggish. At best, I can take a stroll in the park.
Come evening, it’s a different story.
Optimal workout times are sometimes determined by our hormones. In both men and women, testosterone is important for muscle growth and strength, and the body produces more testosterone during late afternoons.
So, it might be better to do weight training during the later part of the day.
Plus, the stress hormone cortisol, which aids in the storage of fat and reduction of muscle tissue, peaks in the morning and decreases throughout the day and during exercise.
If you need an outlet to release stress, then working out at the end of the day is a wiser option than hitting the morning snooze button.
Additionally, attending a packed after-work class such as kickboxing or Strong by Zumba may push you to work harder against fellow gym-goers. A bit of competition always helps.
Exercising should make you feel good. But, if your muscles are tight in the morning or working out late disrupts your sleep pattern, it can be counterproductive.
If you’re strapped for time, then be creative and break up your activity into daily bouts of 10 minutes.
For example, take 10 minutes in the morning to walk briskly, spend another 10 minutes after lunch walking in or around the office, and in the evening, squeeze in another 10 minutes of brisk walking or stair climbing.
You’d have achieved a 30-minute activity for the day! Isn’t that better than being sedentary?
Besides, you would have also attained the American Heart Association’s recommended 150 minutes of moderate intensity workout a week.
Or, aim for 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity a week to keep your heart healthy.
The key is to find a time where you can be consistent because the benefits of physical activity are tightly linked to the amount you do on a regular basis.
Once exercising becomes a habit, who knows, you may reach a point where it comes as naturally as breathing.
Revathi Murugappan is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance, but longs for some bulk and flesh in the right places.